Writing

Reading Sundays: THE NON-AFFAIR (Part 5) a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

“I’ve never met a woman like you before.”

I held my breath as I cast my eyes down, willing my heart to stop dancing its jagged rhythm. For the first twenty years of my life, I’d melted into the wallpaper, looking out as parties, and dances swirled in front of me, like a dangerous whirlpool. No one had discerned me before. No one had striven hard enough to surmount my natural shyness, see past my gangly figure, ignore my home-made clothes.

Slowly, I lifted my lashes.

He laughed. “You take me too seriously, Caroline.”

I compelled the corners of my mouth to curl up into a smile, not understanding.

He glanced at his watch, forcing me to rise, and leave.

***

I got little sleep that night. What had happened? He’d been so warm, so attentive. Then—what? Had he paid me a compliment when he said he’d never met anyone like me before? Or—or was he laughing at me? My stomach sour, I pushed away tangled sheets and padded to the window in thick socks. Snow was falling outside, dusting everything in a light coating of white, while a cold morning glimmered into being. Today was Saturday, April 2. That meant yesterday had been April 1. Had he been teasing me?

***

I missed his office hours that week and the next, not returning until April 22. His smile warmed his face as I knocked softly upon the door.

“Come in, come in,” he said, “and let me take a look at you. I haven’t seen you in a while.”

I sat tentatively, straight-backed, knees together, while he sprawled in his chair, knees apart, and examined me. I had dressed with more than usual care, wanting to make the right impression. I was a young lady, and wanted to be treated as such, so I wore my church clothes, a black skirt that came to mid-calf and made me look older, the white blouse with the stiff collar Mother had given me as a gift, and my favorite dark-blue sweater I’d knitted myself. I hoped it brought out the color of my eyes. [To be continued.]